DUNEDIN — City commissioners are now on a fast track to select a location on which to build a newly designed city hall, municipal services complex and parking garage.
The project will be undertaken in two distinct phases. Phase I, which is scheduled to be presented to the City Commission about May 14, includes a space needs analysis and site selection study for relocation of city hall and the municipal services building, along with construction of a public parking garage. Phase II will include the complete architectural and engineering services.
During their Feb. 7 meeting, commissioners unanimously chose Harvard Jolly Architecture to spearhead the first phase of the City Hall-Municipal Services Building relocation project.
The architectural consultant will recommend three preferred sites to construct City Hall Center and a parking garage, somewhere on two city-owned parcels, between 737 Louden Ave. and 500 Wood St.
According to Doug Hutchens, deputy city manager, Harvard Jolly will meet with all department heads to discuss space needs for offices, storage and meetings, interaction with the public, security, acoustics, and other requirements.
In addition to meeting with staff on departmental space needs, Harvard Jolly will seek public comment by conducting town meetings, Hutchens said.
Site plans and analysis will consider the orientation of buildings within the site and its potential impact on adjacent property, Hutchens explained. The impact of the city vacating Louden Avenue and creating one large parcel also will be researched.
Both of these properties, on 3.5 acres, provide opportunities for a new 36,000 square foot city hall along with a parking garage and some private development, Hutchens said.
The current town facilities “are in poor condition and are functionally obsolete making a new City Center a high priority,” Hutchens noted.
As part of the scope, Harvard Jolly will partner with Colliers International, a real estate marketing firm, to determine property values and assist in determining the pros and cons of each site. Any unused property could be sold to the public.
Harvard Jolly president Ward Friszolowski, who also serves as a St. Pete Beach commissioner, said a real estate consultant was included on the project because “we’re thinking if you don’t use all the land it can be leased or sold to determine the highest and best use of all the parcels.“
Hutchens told commissioners the project is on a fast-tracked schedule for several reasons, one of them being “why not; it is time.”
He added they also want to be able to capture opinions of both full-time and seasonal residents “as soon as possible.”
When evaluating site options, Harvard Jolly will state whether the construction timeframe will require relocation of staff in the Municipal and Technical Services buildings.
Commissioner Maureen Freaney noted there will probably be some variations of thought on the commission as to the location of the buildings. She added her vision of an iconic city hall would be to locate the building on the corner near The Living Room Restaurant.
Freaney said that might be a prime spot to show off downtown and perhaps include a ground floor restaurant.
Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski noted “we have different thoughts where it should be.”
Friszolowski said they won’t go into the process with any preconceived thoughts or ideas.
He added the city may want to consider choosing a space based on an iconic location or for economic reasons of selling the most desired piece of land and getting the best price.
To help the user groups prepare for the meeting, Harvard Jolly will create a questionnaire to be circulated to all department heads in advance of the meeting. Using the information gathered at that meeting, Harvard Jolly will create a draft building program to determine whether a new 36,000-square-foot building is an appropriate size.